Monday, March 31, 2014

Social Security Disability Payees Under Scrutiny

Unfortunately, Social Security Disability beneficiaries often are the victims of predators who abuse them and steal their monthly checks.  Perhaps one of the most dramatic cases involving this problem was the "Tacony Dungeon Case" in Philadelphia where four mentally disabled persons were held captive in a filthy basement in a scheme to steal their benefits.  Now, the Social Security Administration has launched a new initiative that bars persons with a criminal record from serving as a payee for SSI or SSDI beneficiaries.

However, it is not clear how well Social Security employees will be able to carry out this new initiative given the fact that they are understaffed and don't have access to the FBI's criminal database.  Instead, agency employees are going to be relying on private third party databases and other public records.  

Pursuant to the new program, representative payees who collect payments for those who are unable to handle their own finances would be rejected if they have committed one of 12 crimes: human trafficking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, rape/sexual assault, first-degree homicide, robbery, fraud to obtain government assistance, fraud by scheme, theft of government funds,/property, abuse/neglect, forgery and identity theft.

In some cases non-profit corporations act as payees for social security disability beneficiaries who cannot handle their own finances.  Just this week, sad news came in from Portland, Oregon where a non-profit group called Safety Net is under investigation for mismanaging the funds of the disabled. A federal warrant has closed Safety Net's facilities and now approximately 1,000 Social Security Disability beneficiaries are in danger of loosing their next check.  Obviously, much more needs to be done to prevent payee fraud and mismanagement.  Unless immediate action is taken to address this problem and appropriate funds and resources are assigned to implement the new initiative, it is likely that this problem will continue.